Once common, now disappearing: Wood Turtle and Olive-sided Flycatcher focus attention on Species at Risk

    OTTAWA, Dec. 3 /CNW Telbec/ - The Committee on the Status of Endangered
Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) met in Ottawa, Ontario, November 28-30, 2007
where the conservation status of 15 species was assessed. This is the
30th year of work by the Committee.

    Stomping Turtle in trouble

    Wood Turtles can live for several decades along forested creeks and
rivers from the Maritimes west to Ontario. This species was assessed as
Threatened due partly to the loss of habitat and increased road mortality.
These turtles stomp their feet to attract earthworms. A victim of its
attractive appearance and tameness, turtles are the focus of illegal
    Collectors also represent a threat to another reptile, the Eastern
Hognosed snake, contributing to an assessment of Threatened. Individuals
wander widely and are commonly killed on roads. This non-venomous species has
a tendency to inflate its neck to a cobra-like hood, hiss, strike, and
eventually feign death. These snakes are fast disappearing from southern

    More unexplained bird declines

    The Olive-sided Flycatcher, a species found across Canada, was assessed
as Threatened because of a long-term decline in numbers. Similar to some other
recently assessed birds that feed on flying insects and winter in South
America, the cause of the decline is unclear.

    Fisheries management pays dividends

    The Canary Rockfish is harvested along the West Coast of North America.
The species declined drastically as a result of fishing pressure. The overall
decline led COSEWIC to assess the species as Threatened. However, improvements
in the way the fishery is managed, including observer coverage and the novel
use of video records, have reduced the risk that the species will become

    Endangered seals

    Canada's only freshwater seal, the Lac des Loups Marins subspecies of the
Harbour seal, now estimated to number only about a hundred individuals, is
considered Endangered.

    Botanical bottlenecks

    Three perennial plants were all assessed as Endangered. The Wood-poppy is
restricted to 3 small and highly fragmented populations in SW Ontario. The
Golden Paintbrush and the Yellow Montane Violet both occur in a few scattered
locations on southern Vancouver Island and adjacent islands. These plants are
all impacted by habitat loss and the spread of invasive aliens.

    Disappearing sand dune ecosystems

    The Committee assessed the status of two prairie sand dune moths, the
Dusky Dune Moth and Pale Yellow Dune Moth. The dusky species, which is
associated with disappearing active dunes was assessed as Endangered, while
the status of Special Concern was assigned to the pale yellow species which
lives in sparsely vegetated semi-stabilized dunes. These moths join a variety
of other dune-inhabiting plants and animals at risk of extinction. A working
group is partnering with researchers to prepare a report about on-going
changes to prairie dune ecosystems.

    About COSEWIC

    COSEWIC assesses the national status of wild species, subspecies,
varieties, or other important units of biological diversity, that are
considered to be at risk in Canada. To do so, COSEWIC uses scientific,
Aboriginal traditional and local or community knowledge provided by many
experts from governments, academia, other organizations and individuals.
Assessment summaries are currently available to the public on the COSEWIC
website (www.cosewic.gc.ca) and will be submitted to the Federal Minister of
the Environment in August 2008 for listing consideration under the Species at
Risk Act (SARA). At that time, the full status reports will be publicly
available on the Species at Risk Public Registry (www.sararegistry.gc.ca).
    There are now 556 species in various COSEWIC risk categories, including
225 Endangered, 141 Threatened, 155 Special Concern, and 22 Extirpated Species
(i.e. no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 13 are Extinct and
43 are Data Deficient.
    COSEWIC comprises members from each provincial and territorial government
wildlife agency, four federal entities (Canadian Wildlife Service, Parks
Canada Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Federal Biodiversity
Information Partnership, chaired by the Canadian Museum of Nature), three
non-government science members, and the co-chairs of the species specialist
and the Aboriginal traditional knowledge subcommittees.

    Definition of COSEWIC terms and risk categories:

    Wildlife Species: A species, subspecies, variety, or geographically or
    genetically distinct population of animal, plant or other organism, other
    than a bacterium or virus, that is wild by nature and is either native to
    Canada or has extended its range into Canada without human intervention
    and has been present in Canada for at least 50 years.

    Extinct (X): A wildlife species that no longer exists

    Extirpated (XT): A wildlife species no longer existing in the wild in
    Canada, but occurring elsewhere

    Endangered (E): A wildlife species facing imminent extirpation or

    Threatened (T): A wildlife species likely to become Endangered if
    limiting factors are not reversed

    Special Concern (SC): A wildlife species that may become a Threatened or
    an Endangered species because of a combination of biological
    characteristics and identified threats

    Not at Risk (NAR): A wildlife species that has been evaluated and found
    to be not at risk of extinction given the current circumstances

    Data Deficient (DD): A category that applies when the available
    information is insufficient (a) to resolve a wildlife species'
    eligibility for assessment or (b) to permit an assessment of the wildlife
    species' risk of extinction.

For further information:

For further information: Dr. Jeff Hutchings, Chair, COSEWIC, Department
of Biology, Dalhousie University, (902) 494-2687, (902) 494-3515,
Jeff.hutchings@dal.ca; General inquiries: COSEWIC Secretariat, (819) 953-3215,
www.cosewic.gc.ca; For inquiries on Reptiles and Amphibians: Dr. Ronald J.
Brooks, Department of Zoology, College of Biological Science, (519) 824-4120,
ext. 53944, Fax: (519) 767-1656, rjbooks@uoguelph.ca; For inquiries on Marine
Mammals: Dr. Andrew Trites, Director, Marine Mammal Research Unit, University
of British Columbia, Cell: (604) 209-8182, Fax: (604) 822-8180,
trites@zoology.ubc.ca; For inquiries on Birds: Dr. Marty Leonard, Department
of Biology, Dalhousie University, (902) 494-2158, Fax: (902) 494-3736,
mleonard@dal.ca; For inquiries on Sand Dunes: Dr. Gordon Court, Provincial
Wildlife Status Biologist, Resource Data and Species at Risk Fish and Wildlife
Division, SRD, Dept. of Sustainable Resource Development, Government of
Alberta, (780) 422-9536, Fax: (780) 422-0266, gord.court@gov.ab.ca; For
inquiries on Moths: Dr. Laurence Packer, Department of Biology, York
University, (416) 736-2100, ext. 66524, laurencepacker@yahoo.com; For
inquiries on Marine Fishes: Dr. Howard Powles, (819) 684-7730, Fax: (819)
684-7730, powlesh@sympatico.ca; For inquiries on Trees and Plants: Erich
Haber, (613) 435-0216, Fax: (613) 435-0217, erich.haber@rogers.com; For
inquiries on Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge: Henry Lickers, Mohawk Council
of Akwesasne, Department of the Environment, (613) 936-1548, Fax: (613)
938-6760, hlickers@akwesasne.ca; Further details on all species assessed, and
the reasons for designations, can be found on the COSEWIC website at:

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Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada

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